On May 22, the Delhi High Court issued a summons to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in a defamation suit filed by a Gujarat-based NGO, Justice on Trial. The NGO’s counsel Senior Advocate Harish Salve contended that the BBC’s documentary against Prime Minister Narendra Modi casts a slur on the reputation of the country and the judiciary.
The NGO has sought damages of Rs 10,000 crores from the British broadcaster.
The Delhi High Court said, “It is contended that the said documentary/publication contains content which casts a slur on the reputation of the country and also makes false and defamatory imputations and insinuations against the Prime Minister of India, the Indian Judiciary and the Indian criminal justice system… It is averred that the aforesaid conduct of the respondents is actionable,” and listed the matter for further hearing on September 25.
BBC’s Documentary Defames RSS, VHP and the BJP
On May 11, BBC contended that a Delhi trial court does not have jurisdiction to deal with the defamation case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Binay Kumar Singh, stating that the BBC documentary has defamed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the BJP.
Furthermore, the BBC and Wikipedia’s counsel argued that they are appearing under protest and they have not been served properly as they are foreign entities. It is pertinent to note that the court issued a summons to BBC, Wikimedia Foundation and the Internet Archive, and gave them 30 days to file written replies in the suit on May 3.
The US-based digital library Internet Archive’s counsel informed the court that the BBC documentary had been removed from its platform. The trial court noted, “Ld. Counsel for the defendant no. 3 submits that the content has already been removed by the defendant no. 3 and in case the plaintiff has any other objection regarding the same, the defendant no. 3 shall do the needful.”
India on January 19 denounced the controversial BBC documentary series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and described it as a “propaganda piece” that is designed to push a discredited narrative.
The BBC documentary ‘The Modi Question’ questions PM Narendra Modi’s leadership during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The series descriptor calls it a “look at tensions between Indian PM Narendra Modi and India’s Muslim minority, investigating claims about his role in the 2002 riots that left over a thousand dead.”